Network, Network, Network: Make Your Contacts Early On
Welcome to the first lesson for Indie Marketing for N00bs on GameDev.net. This will be a series of blogs to help indie developers really focus their marketing techniques and be successful in their campaigns. I’ve been with the game industry for over a decade, with focuses on journalism, marketing, public relations, advertising, and community management and I’ve boiled some of the more key components to know down into 5 lessons. We’ll start today’s lesson with Networking.
Networking is an essential part of anyone that wants to get their game out there. Who are you talking to about your game? Are the masses even hearing about it, or are you just throwing up up on Facebook to friends and family? Who should you be talking to? This brings us to the first point.
Take All Of Your Contacts And Put Them Together
Make a media list. As a marketer, we’re handed massive media lists from events and create our own from around the industry. But, as a developer, starting from scratch is the main place to be. This list is who you will talk to every time you want to make an announcement. The list should include relevant press and media, influencers, press websites, newswires, and publications, as well as the swath of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn contacts you have derived in your adventure of development.
You’re going to want to make it as easy on yourself as you can because it’s not a quick job. I always recommend a spreadsheet. Anyone and everyone that is press or media should be included on the list because you don’t want to have to submit through a “tip form” every time you want to get ahold of a publication or outlet. That’s annoying, frustrating, and most of those “tips” are skimmed past and ignored anyway. You need a name, a contact, to go straight to.
Making the list, you should include relevant contact information for each person, like their full name, title, publication name, and relevant notes about their specific functions. For instance, you probably don’t want to send your single-player game to a website that focuses on multiplayer games.
One major point of interest is the need to keep the list current and updated anytime you can. Ultimately, people lose their lobes or leave for other positions. This can not only leave a hole in some large contact spots, but also displaces contacts. Additionally, contacts from one publication may leave and make their own website, which can open up more possible eyes.
I found a list I had made from 2010, recently, and went through is to see what could be relevant to my modern list. Out of nearly 200 contacts, I kept a total of 6 exactly as they were. A very unfortunate amount of those websites didn’t even exist anymore. They had gone the way of the wind. Many of the publications that still exist had new people in the reigns 6 or 7 years later. Now, a chunk of those names still are writers in the industry, though. Researching each one found that they had moved to a different website and changed their email from the business email they had previous, but were still relevant. Out of those, I kept another 30, but it took work to find the right contact info for each.
Know Your Industry
So, you’re making a game. What platforms will it be on? Who are your contacts within the industry? We’re beyond the days of old-school Rolodexes, but we’re not beyond the need to have people available at the touch of a dial. Developers should figure out their contacts and representatives for each outlet. ID@XBOX, Playstation, Steam, Nintendo, IndieBox, and Itch.io are just a few to find and keep, as well as contact information for recruiting agencies and websites that can help you find who you might be looking for. Websites like GameDev.Net are key ingredients to your contact smoothie to help like-minded developers meet and make contacts. Remember: You might not know a person, but someone else may.
Bill Kunkel, known as The Game Doctor, was the very first game journalist, having helped found EG Magazine in the 1980s. He mentored me in his later years and something he told me resonates a decade later in my mind everyday. He told me, “It’s not who you know, or even what you know. It’s who knows you. You can say you know everything in the world, but if they have no idea who you are, it’s not worth a thing.” As a developer, you need to stand above the rest of the crowd. The loudest wins. Make sure people know who you are.
But, how do I make people remember me?
Join websites and social media platforms for designed for developers. Join dev groups on Facebook. Go out and join in on some of the thousands of Game Jams held every year. Join forum communities like GameDev.net. Attend game events in your area. You have to make friends that are like minded because allies will boost your name.
Advice can come from anywhere, as well. One of the folks that you meet in your travels may make it big before you, or they’re already big. Our industry may be rough around the edges sometimes, but the pros and classic legends are some of the most helpful people in the industry. I remember working on an old website years ago, and I had an error in the coding of the site. I just couldn’t figure it out. As I was cussing to myself over it, I happened to have been talking to John Romero (Yes, John Romero from ID Software) at that moment. I remember him going “Aha! I see the problem!”. I gave him access to it, and he solved it for me. It really shows how friendly people are in our industry. Don’t be afraid to talk to them.
Networking will also help you find people you need, like artists, programmers, and the like. The people you meet on your journey might be exactly who you need or put you in the right direction to find your grail.
Of course you’ll get detractors here and there, but if you don’t have a list of allies and contacts for your quest, you’re likely to not be as successful. No one does this completely alone. Just remember: The answer is always “No” unless you ask.